A Students Guide to Creating a Great LinkedIn Profile

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A great way to help you land your dream job after you graduate is to spend time building relationships in LinkedIn.

And one of the first ways to get started is by creating an optimized LinkedIn profile for yourself.

You see, creating a great profile can help you network with professionals at companies where you want to work – and an optimized profile can help you attract the right kind of recruiters.

Here are 9 ways to create an optimized profile for yourself while still in college:

1. Make an attractive headline to attract a recruiter.
There are many ways to use the headline in your LinkedIn profile. You can list your college major and when youre graduating. You can list the career field that you are seeking to get into (based on keywords you researched). Test out different headlines to see if certain headlines get you more traffic than others.

Some examples:

  • Computer Science Major, Graduating 2016. Seeking Employment in San Francisco, California.
  • Computer Science Geek, Graduating from U.C. Berkeley in 2016. Seeking Employment.
  • English Lit. Major, Seeking Jobs in Journalism. Graduation 2015.

Use keywords that will help recruiters identify the types of jobs and locations youre interested in.

2. Write a professional summary statement.
Your summary statement is a place to write down some basic information about yourself and the career field youre excited to enter. This is not a place to litter with keywords in hopes of getting more traffic to your profile. This is a place to sell yourself within a few paragraphs. Respect the readers time when writing your profile by keeping it brief and to the point.

3. List college courses to show the range of your skills and knowledge
A great way to add meat to your LinkedIn profile is by adding relevant college courses youve taken for the career fields youre interested in. Dont laundry list every class, but just the courses that might help you stand out from others seeking the job you want.

I was an English Major as an undergrad, but also took a programming course just so Id have a little knowledge in the area. Even though I could never code well (and have the utmost respect for all the programmers and hackers out there), this background made me stand out a bit and served very useful later when working as a writer in a web team.

4. List your skills that fit the job youre looking for.
There is a Skills and Expertise section on LinkedIn that allows you to add the subjects and skills youre competent in. Dont make the mistake of just writing keywords without doing research. You need to add the relevant skills that will attract the right kinds of recruiters filling jobs that you want.

There are several ways to find the right keywords for the skills you have

First, spend some time in the LinkedIn Skills & Expertise section doing keyword research on the skills you have.

As you research your skills, youll find lists of other high-demand skills that you might have, but never thought of adding. This is also a great approach to finding skills in your career field that you dont have (and need to learn before you get out of college).

For example, many college students are blogging (which is a popular skill in LinkedIn). When studying this section, youll not only see information about this skill, but also a slew of other related skills others are adding in their profiles.

If you blog, you might also have these popular skills: Engaging Content, HootSuite, Microblogging, Video Blogging, Blog Marketing, Blogging Software, etc. You might have never thought of adding these keywords to your profile without doing this critical keyword research.

Now, dont just study these skills and create a list based on whats popular.

You need to do one more step to stand apart.

Find professionals in career fields you want to be in and study their profiles. In fact, make it a goal to study dozens of seasoned professionals that are in career fields you want to be in.

What are some common skills they list in their profiles? And what keywords and topics are listed in their introductions? Also note what networking groups they are part of while youre studying their profiles. Those are LinkedIn groups you may want to join when youre ready to start networking.

Take time to study their online resumes because this not only helps you discover related skills you might have already, but more importantly what skills you dont have. This can give you a laundry list of skills you need to start learning or getting some experience with.

Lastly, as you add skills for the job you want, make sure youre listing actual skills you have. Deceiving others on your profile is not only unethical, but can destroy your reputation and potential job offers in the future. Be real on LinkedIn (like Louis Freese).

5. Add professional tests and scores to make you stand out.
If youve taking any big tests, you can list them on your LinkedIn profile. Just make sure to be accurate when you list scores and other info because this will get verified if youre courted by a company and they do their background investigation on you. This is not a necessary component to your LinkedIn profile, but can help you stand out if youve never had a job before.

6. Add experiences that show your passions, work ethic, and leadership abilities.
Just because you never had a professional job doesnt mean you dont have useful experiences to add in your online resume. Think about any clubs or organizations youve been involved in. List your role, what you did, and why you joined the organization.

Companies like to see well-rounded individuals who give back to their communities, so make sure to list all the work you do.

If youre not involved in any organizations, then find a club or organization at your college or community that you can get involved with. Helping others and serving the community is rewarding in many ways so get involved in one or more organizations if youre not already.

Community service isnt something you do just do get into the college you want, its something that you should do for life. Never stop helping others.

7. List the causes you care about.
When recruiters are comparing individuals with similar skills, you can stand out by the causes and organizations you volunteer time with. So if youre passionate about certain causes, please list them on your LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn allows you to select from a handful of different causes so choose the ones youre passionate about.

Dont just check causes just because you agree or like it (otherwise everyone could mark each one). Simply choose the few that are meaningful to you and possibly already do work with. You can also list organizations or nonprofit groups youre currently working with here as well.

8. Stand out by offering pro bono consulting or desire to join a nonprofit board.
If you have time in your school schedule to dedicate to a nonprofit group, consider checking the boxes under Joining a nonprofit board and skills-based volunteering (pro bono consulting) as a way to help others. Checking these boxes can help organizations find you and get your help based on your skills. This is a great way to build your experiences, recommendations, and personal network. So consider doing this.

9. Upload a recent professional picture of yourself.
Make sure to upload a professional picture of yourself. If you plan on dressing for success in interviews, then consider wearing a suit for your head shot. Consider going to a local photography studio to get some pictures done, or have a friend take some good pictures of you.

How are you currently using LinkedIn? What tips can you share for other students? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.